Joseph Mallord William Turner

Studies of Sculptural Fragments and Reliefs from the Vatican Museums, Including a Sarcophagus


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 101 x 161 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXX 15

Catalogue entry

During his 1819 stay in Rome, one of Turner’s most extensive sketching campaigns was the large number of pencil studies made from the sculpture collections of the Vatican Museums (for a general discussion, see the introduction to the sketchbook). This page contains sketches of two objects, one or both of which were probably found in the Galleria Lapidaria (Lapidary Gallery) of the Museo Chiaramonti. The studies are numbered from left to right:
The sketch parallel with the left-hand edge of the page appears to depict a griffin. The source of the detail is currently unidentified. However, the object features within a sheet of antiquities drawn by James Hakewill (1778–1843) in 1817 (British School at Rome Library).1
Cecilia Powell has identified the subject of the right-hand sketch as a sarcophagus,2 found in the Galleria Lapidaria (Lapidary Gallery) of the Museo Chiaramonti.3 The sarcophagus is decorated with sculptural figures and a strigil pattern which Turner only briefly indicated but has noted that it is repeated ‘12’ times on one side. Above the drawing is an inscription by the artist which reads ‘[?278] 1 High’ and ‘MVNIFICENTIA P U SEX PM’.

Nicola Moorby
November 2009

See Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A Catalogue of the drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.5M.19, reproduced p.313.
Powell 1984, p.413.
See Walther Amelung, Die Sculpturen des Vaticanischen Museums, Berlin 1903–8, vol.I, ‘2. Galleria Lapidaria Seite 161–308’, no.169, pp.288–9, reproduced pl.29.

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